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Umran Malik given fast bowling contract with an eye on Australia

Other than insurance and training benefits, fast bowling contract holders will soon benefit financially as well

What would it take for Umran Malik to bounce out Travis Head when the World Test Championship’s current table-toppers face-off in the five-Test series in Australia starting at the year end? A lot. But don’t rule out the possibility.

Umran Malik was picked in the latest BCCI’s annual central contract list.

The national selectors are keeping a close eye on Indian cricket’s man in the fast lane to see if he develops his game enough to be fast-tracked to the squad for the tour Down Under. Recently handed a fast-bowling contract, Malik could get the first taste of Australian conditions in the yet-to-be-announced shadow tour that will precede the Border-Gavaskar Trophy contest scheduled to get underway in December.

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With that plan, selectors advised the Jammu and Kashmir team set-up to offer Malik reasonable game time in this Ranji season so that he got accustomed to bowling longer spells. Malik featured in five Ranji matches, having played just one match last year and two the year before that.

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The three home matches which Malik played were all heavily weather-affected. In the one away match he played at Cuttack against Odisha, he bowled 26 overs across the two innings. All his wickets came while attacking the stumps at his high pace. An IPL sensation after his 2022 returns (22 wickets) for Sunrisers Hyderabad, the focus is on his red-ball progress. Despite a disappointing last season, SRH continue to invest in him.

Malik’s red-ball bowling is a work in progress, but his ability to consistently hit 150kph is unprecedented for an Indian fast bowler.

“What he has is rare ability. He will develop other skills with time but what is currently expected of him is to consistently bowl fast and build long spells,” a BCCI official said.

With BCCI’s increased focus on Test cricket, plans are afoot to build a pool of fast bowlers who can do the job in Australia. India will be chasing their third successive Test series win in Australia. India won 2-1 in 2018-19 as well as 2020-21.

Australia’s Test team has revamped into a formidable unit under Pat Cummins and India will have to pick their pace unit with thought and care. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj are the only certainties. Mohammed Shami is currently undergoing intensive rehabilitation following ankle surgery. Prasidh Krishna remains injury prone. Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan and left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh still have work to do while Akash Deep has played only one Test, having made an impressive debut against England in Ranchi. It is hoped Umran can be one who can bowl high impact spells, if not lengthy ones.


There will be additions to the list of fast-bowling contracts — which assures insurance and use of National Cricket Academy — and these players are likely to benefit monetarily too. “The financial details are being worked out. But they will be getting a retainer too,” the BCCI official added. Cricketers in the lowest grade of national retainership get ₹1 crore.

“The move is aimed at building a targeted fast bowling bench. They will receive insurance benefits and get access to NCA training facilities like contracted players,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah recently told HT.

Akash Deep, among the beneficiaries, will be slotted in Grade C if he plays two more Tests. Other than Umran, Karnataka pacers Vijaykumar Vyshak, Vidwath Kaverappa and UP left-arm Yash Dayal have been given contracts.


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